I recently began my review of the top 10 board games every family should play. This is the list so far:
Top 10 Board Games for Families:
5. Puerto Rico
3. Ticket to Ride
Designer: Alan Moon
Publisher: Days of Wonder
Players: 2 – 5
Time: 30 to 60 min.
Fun to Age Ratio: 11
Type: Set Collection with Railroad Theme
The first time I played Ticket to Ride, I didn’t like it much. I was expecting a new take on the transportation railroad theme and was disappointed to find there was no goods transport to be found in this game. I revisited the game several years later with different expectations and this time I got it. It is what it is, and what it is is not a typical railroad game but rather a set collection game with a railroad theme. And a flat out terrific one at that. It has the highest Fun to Age ratio of all games on my list and is not only a fantastic gaming experience for beginners but for experienced players as well.
The game board is a map of the United States. Cities are connected to one another by routes, indicated by from one to six spaces depending upon the length between them. Many of these routes are of a specific color and some are gray. Each player has 45 train tokens and each time he claims a route, he places those tokens on the route spaces to indicate ownership. Routes are claimed by collecting the corresponding number of correctly colored train cards. Gray routes can be claimed with any color set. When a player has collected the set he wants, he turns in the cards and claims the route. Wild cards are available which can be used for any color.
At the beginning of the game, players are given at least two destination tickets indicating cities the player should try to link. Each link has a value: the further the cities are from one another, the higher the value. The player does not need to follow a specific path but just needs to claim routes that somehow connect those two cities. At the end of the game, the ticket values that the player has completed are added to his score. Those that he did not complete are deducted.
On each turn, a player may perform one of three actions: draw colored train cards, claim a route or draw more destination tickets. This is a very nice balance of decision making; there aren’t too many choices to be confusing, and the decisions you make can be critical. Do you keep trying to collect train card sets before tipping off to others the routes you want, or do you go ahead and claim a route before someone else does? And drawing more destination tickets is always a risky proposition. The more you complete the better, and there is always the chance that you will draw a new one that is easily completed from the routes you’ve already claimed on the board. But if you get stuck with one that you don’t get completed by game end, the point deduction is often devastating.
Ticket to Ride is a light strategy game, but this is what makes it accessible to many ages. And despite the lack of depth, it has high re-playability because it’s just plain fun. To augment the re-playability, there are several expansion sets and stand alone sequels in the Ticket to Ride series, including Ticket to Ride Europe which adds a few new elements to the game. If you’re completely new to the games on my list, this would be the first one I’d try.
Excellent iPhone/iPod/iPad editions are available.